International Women’s Day

Celebrating International Women's Day with an interview with our very own Emily Grant

According to recruiters Randstad, the number of women in senior roles within the construction industry leapt from 6% in 2005 to 16% in 2016, with a growing number of women entering professional roles such as architecture, surveying and construction management. Randstad predicts that women will make up one quarter of all workers in UK construction by 2020 and play an important part in closing the current skills gap. 

To celebrate women in construction on International Women’s Day, we caught up with our very own Emily Grant, Senior Regional Manager for Environet’s Southern region, to ask her about her experiences.

Emily, how did you come to work in the construction industry?
My degree was in Environmental Sciences and I’d say the male/female split on my course was around 50/50, but I’m definitely in a minority working in a hands-on role within construction. I began my career working in the asbestos industry, managing a team of 18, before joining Environet in 2015.

What does your role entail?
I’m responsible for all the business activity in the southern region which is vast, stretching from our Head Office near Guildford south to Penzance, including Surrey, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. I manage sales, operations, client relationships and do a lot of networking. I don’t wear a suit to work, I’m usually in site clothes, boots and a hard hat and I’m not afraid to muck in and get my hands dirty in order to get a job finished!

What has been your experience of being in the minority in your role?
There have been occasions in the past where I’ve sensed an expectation that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and where I’ve had to work harder to earn respect than my male colleagues. But I’m happy to say things have changed a great deal just in the last five years, partly because women have become bolder at calling out sexism in the workplace and perpetrators are unlikely to get away with it so easily. But there’s also been a big shift away from the ‘old boys’ club’. Networking has come off the golf course into the conference room, it’s much more professional and women are playing a huge role in that. Particularly in the south west where it’s all about who you know!

Have any legislative changes had an impact on women in the workplace?
Absolutely. Flexible working legislation for parents and carers has had a huge impact because it has helped level the playing field. Yes, women have the right to ask to work flexibly in order to balance their careers with a role as parent or carer, but so do men and that’s what has made the difference. Increasingly men are seeking to balance careers with home life, sharing parental leave after a baby is born and doing their share of school or nursery picks up, so the pressure is off women to shoulder the burden alone. Myself and most of the people I know either split responsibilities at home with their partners 50/50, or they have made a decision for one person to be the main carer purely based on whose earnings are higher.

What advice would you give women thinking about a career in construction?
I’d say to anyone, male or female, that if you’re passionate about something, you should pursue it! There is a lot of support now for women working in construction, including networking groups such as ‘Women in Property’ and ‘Women in Construction’, which I’m a part of. Big companies are being very proactive now in recruiting more women, as they recognise that they bring an important balance to the workforce that benefits the entire organisation. I think now is a great time for women to begin a career in construction.

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